Further Reading

Help me with my husband's addiction to sports on TV

Dear Stanton:

My husband just told me that he is "Addicted" to sports. Not playing them, but watching them. Football in its season. Baseball in its season. Basketball... He said tonight that he is happy when his team wins, sad when they loose, and depressed when they blow it. He is guilty whenever he is watching it because, I don't like to watch sports on TV.

He listens to sports in the radio in the car. Thinks about it all day at work. Probably dreams it at night. Watches at least 15 hours of it a week. Why do baseball games have to be so long?!!

Sports is affecting our relationship. He doesn't just play with our 2 1/2 year old son. He has one eye and ear glued to the game on TV. When we finally get out of the house on the weekends, he rushes us to get home before the start of a game. No more hiking. No more walks on the beach which is only three blocks from our house! No more exercising together. He even bought a second TV so that he wouldn't feel too guilty, since our son and I could sit in another room watching a different show...

Is this addiction? Am I assisting in some co-dependent way? Should I take off with or without our son to do the fun outdoors things that we used to do (only alone this time)? When I do go out, with my family or a friend, he gets really depressed.

He probably grew up like this, and just hid it long enough for him to catch me. We are gaining weight on that couch. Our son is getting older. And we don't have the family memories to keep me happy.

Plus. He promised me over 3 years ago he would quit smoking. I know it must be hard, but he smokes at work. I don't let him smoke at home, but if he goes to the store (for beer to drink with the game...) he smokes. I'm a high school teacher. He works on a computer all day. We can't afford his beer and cigarettes.

What can we do?


Dear Heather:

Yes, it is an addiction. It is an extreme emotional cathexis he has invested in sports (although perhaps not that exceptional). And it is good, I think, that he recognizes it as such. You can do as much about it as people can do about other aspects of their relationships.

One key sentence you wrote (and your letter is well-written) is "Sports is affecting our relationship." And, Heather, the quality of your relationship is affecting his sports viewing. Apparently, in the balance of things, his relationship with you and your son falls a distant second. Did you notice certain tendencies in this direction before sports rose to the central place in his (and your) life that it now occupies? I would believe your comment: "He probably grew up like this, and just hid it long enough for him to catch me."

For example how did he occupy his time before sports took over totally? Did he really use to hike and engage in other physical activities? Did he ever read? Was he ever involved in community or volunteer activities? Did he ever have good relationships with friends and family? It seems hard to fathom how, if these were important components to his life, how he would so readily throw them overboard.

To start with your last question first: yes, yes, yes continue with your own life — the walking on the beach, hiking, seeing friends, taking your son to activities. In fact, where I live, most people are too consumed (often to the detriment of their own lives) with piloting their children around. In your case, having your son involved in activities such as sports would seem to be a tremendous plus. Would watching his son's little league or soccer games engage your husband's attention — let's hope so.

But at least if you get out you won't get fatter because your husband won't budge from the couch (do you know there are women who take drugs just because their mates do but report never having enjoyed them?). And your statement, "When I do go out, with my family or a friend, he gets really depressed," seems poignant. Is he jealous? Is this a sign that something else does count almost as much as sports for him, and he is afraid to miss it? If this is the case, you have an obligation to make plans and go out (always cheerily asking him if he wants to come along). You know, Heather, if the beach is three blocks from your home, you could walk there yourself with your son. If you find it hard to go places alone, you might try developing this skill.

That your husband's sports viewing is reinforced by cigarettes and beer is certainly a problem. As you may know, I have nothing against beer. But I like your analysis of the cost of these things. Is your husband aware of your analysis of the impact of his habits on your family's economics and physical and emotional health? These seem to be extremely good points. What would it mean to you if, knowing these things, your husband sacrificed your son's future for a second rate baseball game (i.e., one selected not because of its inherent interest, but just because it is the only game on)?

Perhaps you need to embody your analysis with the strength of your feelings. If it makes him depressed that you are going on with your son's life, then that's the least of the negative feelings he should experience due to his failure to choose you and the family over his various addictions!

With regards,